Normally in book reviews, the reviewer will attempt to outline the plot and genre of the work without giving too much of the game away. To do so in this instance, would be no easy task, as there are so many interconnected threads, themes and motifs skilfully presented to the reader. To suggest one attribute over another would be to execute grave injustice upon this complex work, which clearly shines as a labour of love, commitment and passion. The harshest critic, naturally, would suggest instead that it is unfocussed, fragmented, undisciplined, but in doing so all they would be achieving is exposing their own bitter soul, sprung of indoctrination and political correctness. One could easily envision “The Unseen Path” being amongst the forbidden cultural treasures secreted by Deitrich (Stephen Fry) in the film “V for Vendetta”. “The Unseen Path” is a disturbing and profound read, and many enemies will it make.
Weighing in at 1006 grams, this is no lightweight book. Beautifully presented, I noticed only one typographical error in its 515 pages. Other than that trifling matter, the overall physical quality is excellent, and the author shows a clear attention to detail in including an old fashioned, black ribbon bookmark. Many a book attempts to use physical attributes to disguise the contemptible dialogue and principles contained within, a frequent ploy of the political biography, but this is not the case here. Each page is not only crafted out of the highest quality paper, but the words used and imagery generated demonstrates that de Pavilly has a secure grasp of the concept of holistic purity. One does not use crayon on the finest vellum paper.
Be it through accident or design, the further I delved through the pages, the ghost of Ayn Rand seemed to follow me at a discrete and respectful distance. The literary technique of encapsulating deep philosophical, spiritual and ethical truth in a work of fiction is not new, nor is the practice of adding just enough human interest to make the characters believable without over-egging the emotional cake. The supporting threads of objectivity and rationalism have been so expertly spun through the warp and weft to such a degree that they are almost invisible, yet at the same time, the reader is unwittingly hoisted aloft by them. If you are willing to approach “The Unseen Path” with an open mind and heart, rather than finding yourself walking beside the protagonists, you will suddenly discover yourself looking down on the plot, with the same shock that a disembodied soul, having left their body, discovers only a golden thread separates them from life or death. You may purchase this book, you may read this book, but you may not walk away unchallenged or unchanged.
The language used, while not so simplistic as to appeal to the Dr. Seuss regions of the Flesch–Kincaid readability scale, is perfectly accessible. What is more important though to any inveterate and unrepentant bookworm, is the addiction factor. Do you loath to put a book down part-read? Does it burrow so far into your subconscious that it calls your name when you attempt other tasks? Are you stricken with a such sense of involvement when reading, that you miss your stop on the bus, tube or train? All are indicators of a good book. Needless to say, I managed to consume “The Unseen Path” in two glutinous, extended sessions of guilty pleasure. If you are a bedtime reader, the book will last the average reader about eight or nine days, if you dedicate an hour per night. While you can probably curl up on the sofa and read this, you are probably better off away from the distraction of the television or radio. If, like me, you prefer to ponder and attempt to preempt the ongoing plot before the author actually spells the narrative out for you, the occasional period of quiet reflection is essential here. This is not your run of the mill trash detective novel to be read on a beach or a noisy airport lounge. While there is enough tension and suspense to keep you turning pages, you are frequently left suspecting you know where the author is leading you, only to be blindsided a bit further on.
Despite all the twist and turns, what is so compelling about the whole book is that far from being fiction, it is eminently believable. While there are elements that some would consider a Narnia like fantasy, I personally understood these to be a metaphor for heaven. Without this spiritual tapestry however, the book would just be too dystopian and depressing. While the overall subject matter is serious, compelling, disturbing even, you are left with a sense of hope that no matter how desperate, good will always prevail over evil.
The unanswered question amongst many, is de Pavilly working on a sequel? I am torn on this issue. It would be difficult to see how the author could carry on as he has so successfully hammered, screwed and superglued his initial plot line to the mast. As a first book, this is a staggering initial achievement, and it would be difficult at first glance to see how a second book in the series could carry on without being a dim reflection of the first. That said, there are enough hooks left for further plot and character development and handled sensitively, the possibility is clearly there. I certainly would have no hesitation in purchasing it. I would just be disappointed if like so many sequels, book two loses that initial energy. Saying that, in the right creative hands, “The Unseen Path” would make an excellent movie. I can think of no more fitting candidate to fund this than BBC films. The irony would be stratospheric.
In closing, my only criticisms are piffling. On page 353, there is a space missing between the end of one sentence and the next. And in the next edition, if there is one, I would be grateful if the chapter sections are broken up with a “~~~” or some other typesetting device. The number of times I flipped the page to discover I had entered a new scenario, made for a few unnecessary back and forward page turns, until I readjusted to the scene change. Or maybe these errors were a deliberate psychological ploy? For an author whose name is an anagram of “VIP dad jelly”, who knows?
© Rookwood 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file